First Ladies: Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

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Elizabeth Monroe was the wife of the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe.

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

She was born as Elizabeth Jane Kortright on June 30, 1768 in New York City. She was the daughter of Lawrence and Hannah Aspinwall Kortright. Her father served as one of the founders of the New York Chamber of Commerce. She had four older siblings. Her mother died from the “child bed” in September 1777.

Elizabeth first met James Monroe, ten years her senior, while he was a member of the Continental Congress in 1785. The couple were married on February 16, 1786. That December their first child, Eliza Kortright Monroe, was born.

Elizabeth journeyed to France when her husband was Minister to France. She helped secure the release of Madame La Fayette, during the Reign of Terror.

After returning to Virginia, where her husband served as Governor, the couple had a son who died before he was two years old. Elizabeth began to suffer from seizures and collapses which would continue to plague her for the rest of her life. In 1802, a second daughter, Maria Hester was born.

Elizabeth became First Lady {that was not the term used at that time} on March 4, 1817, when her husband took the oath as President of the United States.

Elizabeth Monroe

During her husband’s term the White House was still under reconstruction, following the British attach on Washington in 1814. The couple held their inaugural ball at their private residence and even brought furnishings from their private residences.

Due to her ill health, her daughter Eliza Monroe Hay often stepped in to assist in the hostess duties at the White House.

Her younger daughter, Maria, married Samuel L. Governor on March 9, 1820. This was the first wedding of a president’s child at the White House.

Elizabeth died on September 23, 1830. She was buried on their plantation. Her husband died less than two hours later, but was buried elsewhere. In 1903, Elizabeth Monroe’s remains were moved beside her husband. Today they both lay in rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.




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